ROOTS-ATHENA AND THE ATHENAEUM
A PAPER PREPARED FOR THE HOPKINSVILLE ATHENAEUM
NOVEMBER 7, 2002
III. THE PARTHENON
IV. THE ATHENAEUM
A. ATHENS, GREECE
B. ROME, ITALY/EMPEROR HADRIAN
V. THE ATHENAEUM MOVEMENT IN AMERICA (UNITED STATES)
A. LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND
B. BOSTON, MA USA
C. OTHER ATHENAEUMS
VI. THE HOPKISNVILLE ATHENAEUM
VII. AMENDMENTS AND MOTION
A. CHANGE: “knowledge and information” to “knowledge and wisdom“.
B. ELIMINATE: The sentence limiting papers written and delivered on Politics and Religion.
C. MOTION: To store all Hopkinsville Athenaeum papers in one location.
ROOTS-ATHENA AND THE ATHENAEUM
As I prepared for my last Athenaeum paper, “A Dickens of a Carol” I ran across a reference that said, “Dickens dated The Carol from his address on the problems of the poor, given to the Manchester Athenaeum on October 7, 1843.” (1)
The existence of an Athenaeum in Manchester, England set me to wondering if there was a larger Athenaeum movement of which our Hopkinsville Athenaeum might in some way be a part.
Let me say at the onset that despite considerable time and research by myself and a couple of reference librarians, little about the development and spread of an Athenaeum Movement could be found and nothing could be found that linked our Hopkinsville Athenaeum to a larger movement.
Despite this I wanted to share with you what I found out about the goddess, Athena, from whom the Athenaeum gets its name and about the Roman Athenaeum founded in Rome, Italy by the Emperor Hadrian in about 135 A.D. and about other Athenaeums that exist in England and the United States.
I thought if would be well to review who Athena was and what she represented to Greek culture and to the Athenaeum founded in her temple, the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. I want to tell you what I learned about the Athenaeums in England and the United States and briefly highlight the first Athenaeum founded in Liverpool, England and the second founded in Boston, MA.
Further I want to again propose two amendments first proposed to this society by a former member, The Rev. Dr. E. Ben Self in a paper he presented March 3, 1977, entitled, “Is The Athenaeum Society Living Up To Its Name?” I also want to add a motion about the storage of our Hopkinsville Athenaeum papers.
Athena spelled Athenae by Homer, was also called Pallas Athena or just Pallas, meaning maiden or Parthenos meaning virgin. She was known as Minerva by the Romans and was a widely popular goddess of the Greeks and Romans. She was second only in popularity to “Big Daddy” Zeus and was in fact his daughter.
Zeus may have been to the Greeks some of what God the Father or Christ his Son is to us in our time and Athena may have been in much the same role as the Virgin Mary is in our Christian religion.
As an interesting aside, Athena had a “virgin birth” being born fully developed and fully armed with armor, breast plate and spear, albeit in diminutive form. She was released from Zeus’s head after Hephaistos split Zeus’ head open with an ax.
In her less Amazonian moods Athena who was the goddess of prudent war, the patron of agriculture and spinning (remember the myth of Araneae and the spider?) and although a virgin, the goddess of fertility. In addition she gave many skills and inventions to the Greek city states and citizens including the plow, the flute, ship building, shoe making and the taming of animals.
The citizens of Athens chose her as their patron and chose her name for the city following a contest with Poseidon in which Poseidon gave Athens a salt spring and Athena, by sticking her spear in the ground, gave the city the olive tree, the tree that is the staple of the entire Mediterranean. The olive tree was seen as the more beneficial gift further enhancing Athena’s status.
After the outnumbered Greeks defended Athens from the attacking Persians on the plains of Marathon, Athena, who was credited with bringing the Greeks victory, was honored by the building of a temple, the Parthenon to her on the “holy of holy” in Athens’s, the Acropolis.
Frances. Lieber, L.L.D. writes in a private paper he gave at the Columbia, SC, Athenaeum on March 17, 1856, “The term Athenaeum comes down to us from remote antiquity. Every place, town, temple or other fabric dedicated to Pallas Athene, the goddess of wisdom, was called, in Greek, an Athenaion. There was a building in Athens called the Athenaion, where rhetoricians and authors read their productions and youth received partial education, or at least instruction.” (2)
Have you seen it? I regretfully report I have not. I haven’t seen the Parthenon in Nashville, TN. If I could do what I’d like, I’d have had us board busses and travel to
Nashville to hold this meeting in the Parthenon in the shadow of the colossal statue of
Athena. We’d have had a catered meal of Greek food and then presented our papers of the evening and discussed, critiqued and rebutted them, all in the spirit of the presentation of ideas and debate of those in the ancient Parthenon in Athens or the Athenaeum in Rome.
The Parthenon in Athens was built by Pedicles and the citizens of Athens to honor Athena for their victory over the Persians on the plains of Marathon.
The Parthenon was the largest and most prominent of the nine buildings that stood on the Acropolis, that rocky, limited access out-cropping that occupies the heart of Athens.
The name comes from the Greek word, parthenos, meaning virgin. Remember Athena was herself a virgin.
The Persians returned ten years later and this time defeated the Athenians and in the process destroyed the work that had been started but not completed on the Parthenon.
The next year, Athens, with the help of Sparta defeated the Persians. As a war memorial, the Athenians set the damaged remains of the columns of the temple into the sides of the Acropolis, where they remain to this day.
Under Roman rule the Parthenon remained a place to listen to lectures of philosophers and a tourist attraction.
In the Christian era, the Parthenon became a Greek Orthodox and later a Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly it’s name while it was a Christian church was, “Our Lady of Athena.”
In 1687 a disastrous gun powder explosion completely destroyed the middle section of the Parthenon. What the explosion didn’t destroy, plunderers and erosion did until only remnants of the original Parthenon and the statue of the goddess Athena remain.
The only complete replica of the Parthenon stands today in Centennial Park in Nashville, TN. This replica was built for the 1897 Centennial Exposition and serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon marbles found in Naos are direct casts of the original sculptures dating back to
438 B, C. The originals of these powerful fragments are the Elgin Marbles, housed in the British Museum in London.
The Parthenon in Nashville also serves as an art gallery and gift shop and contains a statue of Athena. This statue is the tallest indoor sculpture in the Western World.
Hadrian was Emperor of Rome from 117-138 A.D.
Hadrian was born in Spain and was orphaned at an early age. His cousin, Trajan, who later became emperor himself, adopted him.
Hadrian stabilized Roman law with a uniform code, which later became the Justinian Code. He was a distinguished commander and administrator. He built a great protective wall in northern England, Hadrian’s Wall, around the northern most outreach of the Roman Empire. On a trip to Chester, England a number of years ago I saw remnants of this wall still standing around old Chester.
Hadrian loved everything Greek, so much so that he was nicknamed, “Greekling.“
The Athenaeum as we know it in the Western world is probably modeled after the one the Emperor Hadrian established on Capitol Hill in Rome.
The Athenaeum there, unlike the Athenaeum in Athens had paid teachers who taught rhetoric and philosophy and was a place where literary productions were read and discussed. It was the forerunner of our present day university and was, at it’s inception, the highest educational institution in the Western World.
“When a youth had completed his provincial training he would, if sufficiently wealthy, go to the Athenaeum in Rome to finish his education.” (3)
Other cities of the Roman Empire had their Athenaeum’s. There were also Athenaeums in Lyons and Marseilles, France.
In Germany the Athenaeum took another form and was the name applied to periodicals. One of which Schlegel, edited for years. Today in many places including here in the United States some university newspapers or literary magazines may be called an Athenaeum. West Virginia University has an online student newspaper entitled, “The Daily Athenaeum.”
The Germans usually preferred to call their literary societies Harmonies or Germanias
The Spanish form of Athenaeum is “Ateneo” and is a name frequently given Jesuit junior colleges, especially in the Philippines.
The term Athenaeum became a name for many libraries, literary societies, art galleries, schools or universities. Many educational institutions in Europe that we’d call a university have the title, Athenaeum.
It was founded in 1797 in Liverpool, England. In 1856 Francis
Leiber, LLD addressed the Columbia, South Carolina Athenaeum on, “The
History and Uses of
Athenaeums” he said, “When you asked me to give you the history of Athenaeums I suppose that you did not desire me to give a chronological account of a number of Athenaeums. If you did I must plead ignorance. I know the chronology of two Athenaeums only-those of Liverpool and Boston.” (4)
Liverpool was the shipping center of England and as such gave rise to a business class with the money and time to read and keep abreast of the times. Remember 1797 was a time before cheap books and readily available newspapers. Interestingly, a major impetus for the rise of the Liverpool Athenaeum was the desire to have not only books but also newspapers available. The Liverpool Athenaeum had not only a library and a lending library but also had an active reading room in which members could congregate daily and read the daily news.
Dr. Lieber wrote of the early Athenaeums thusly, “I mean those institutions whose object
it is to promote by associations or mutual support, the culture of the mind and taste
among those who have left the school, and are engaged in the practical pursuits of life- the library associations, the apprentices libraries the mechanic institutions, the working men‘s colleges, the lyceums, the athenaeums, and whatever other names may be given the different kinds of this class of institutions, all of which have this in common, that by the mutual support they furnish an opportunity for continued culture and acquisition of knowledge to men practically engaged in life, to the artisan and the physician, the lawyer and the mechanic, the manufacturer and the minister. Almost all of them endeavor to obtain this end by the threefold means of the library, the reading room and the occasional lecture. Of these institutions the athenaeum, as its name would indicate, is, perhaps, that which endeavors to add more especially literature and taste to its objects, and is most intended as a means of dignified mental recreation and tasteful repose.” (5)
1811 saw the founding of the second Athenaeum-The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts. “From its foundation in 1630 Boston, Massachusetts had grown by the end of the seventeenth century into a town with a fleet of ships ranking third in the English-speaking world. Not until the late eighteenth century did Philadelphia and New York overtake Boston in size…as a colonial city Boston had developed strong academic and literary interests with Harvard University on its doorstep at Cambridge (founded in 1636). By the time of independence Boston was, and remained through the nineteenth century, the cultural center of the United States. In 1780 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences had been founded there by John Adams, and other learned and philanthropic societies soon followed…In this atmosphere, not surprisingly, an Athenaeum was incorporated in 1807 by members of the Boston Anthology Society…it was stated specifically that the proposed institution (The Boston Athenaeum) was to be
similar to the Athenaeum and Lyceum of Liverpool in Great Britain. It was a proprietary institution of mainly professional men and merchants, which from the beginning lay great store on its library provisions… During the mid-nineteenth century this building (the Boston Athenaeum) was much frequented by many Boston writers and scholars-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Hickling Prescott and Nathaniel Hawthorne.” (6)
“The London Athenaeum was created in 1824. It remains one of the most famous of the men’s clubs in London. It has a choice location, close to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, an excellent restaurant, and a splendid library, plus comfortable public rooms and bedrooms for members wishing to stay in London for a brief period. Paradoxically, although named after a female, the Athenaeum still declines to admit women as members.” (7)
Manchester was the first industrialized city in England and had a prosperous business and professional community to support an Athenaeum. There was an Athenaeum in Manchester almost as early as the Liverpool Athenaeum
Nearly every city and town in nineteenth century America had a membership library, most of which have disappeared. The following is a list of a number of the Athenaeums, which still exist. You will notice that most of them are on the northeast coast of the country.
One of the earliest Athenaeums created in the United States was the Redwood Athenaeum and Library in Newport, Rhode Island. It was founded in 1747 as a lending library. The Redwood Library and Athenaeum became the cultural and literary center in Newport, holding public lecture series, debates, etc.
Providence, Rhode Island has “One of the oldest libraries in the nation. Its roots go back to 1753 when it was founded as the Providence Library Company. Its patrons once
arrived at the building on the hill drawn by horse-carriages and read by gaslight. Today it is a dynamic library meeting contemporary needs.” (8)
Salem, MA like Boston was settled in 1630, during the next century it became one of the
leading cities in the colonies. It was not until the mid-1700’s after the establishment of Harvard College, however, that there were enough professionals and well-educated merchants to encourage the formation of an association known as the Monday Evening Club. Such an organization was important to its founders as a way of keeping abreast of current events and advancements in their fields, and this gathering, made up of the town’s leading citizens, was an opportunity for these men to exchange knowledge. Remember at this time books were expensive and most of them were imported from England…” (9)
“The Athenaeum of Philadelphia was founded in 1814 as a member supported, not-for-profit, special collections library. It was to collect materials connected with the history and antiquities of America, and the useful arts, and generally to disseminate useful knowledge for the public benefit. The handsomely restored National Historic Landmark building near Independence Hall is operated as an historic site museum.” (10)
Other Athenaeums still exist in The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, La Jolla, Ca;
The Portsmouth Athenaeum, Portsmouth, NH; The Saint Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johnsbury, Vermont; The Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA
The history of out Hopkinsville Athenaeum has been amply and ably reviewed twice in our centennial year, William Turner having reviewed it on April 4, 2002 in his paper, “Battle of Thought and Expression” and Robert Harper having reviewed it on May 2, 2002 in his paper, “100 Years Of The Athenaeum Society of Hopkinsville As Seen Through It’s Minutes.” I don’t propose to review this recently plowed, familiar ground. It seems the choosing of the name for our local Athenaeum by it’s founders is forever lost in time and history. How our society relates to a larger movement also seems to be lost to
these same two forces. Suffice it to say that we do follow in the tradition of Athena and the ancient Athenaeum and as such I would propose that we adopt two changes in our constitution, two changes that were proposed to this august group by former member Ben Self in his paper presented March 3, 1977 entitled, “Is The Athenaeum Living up To Its Name?”
Our Athenaeum Society’s Constitution and Bylaws states in the NAME and OBJECTIVES “1. The name of this Society shall be “The Athenaeum Society.” It shall have for its objective the increase of knowledge and information among its members on the subjects relating to the Arts, Biography, History, Literature, and the Sciences.” (11)
To quote the Rev. Dr. Self, “First, the Athenaeum Society would live up to it’s name more than it does already if it deliberately emphasized wisdom at least as much as knowledge. A revision of our constitution would make for a greater and more authentic adherence to the Athenian ideal.” (12)
The Rev. Dr. Self states further, “Let it be remembered that Athena, whatever may have been the degree of belief accorded to her, was a Greek goddess It was the temple of Athena in Athens that was given the name of Atheniaon, a derivative of which is the
name of this society. This Society would live up to it’s name more if no subject were excluded from consideration and presentation.” (13)
To these ends:
I move that The Hopkinsville Athenaeum Society revise the Constitution to read, “It shall have for its objective the increase of knowledge and wisdom among its members.”
I move that The Hopkinsville Athenaeum Society revise the Constitution by removing the following sentence of our present Constitution, “It shall not be written on Politics or Religion.”
Our Secretary Hal King has the majority of the existent papers presented to The Hopkinsville Athenaeum but not all of them. Athenaeum papers for 1958-59, 1965 and 1967-81 are stored at The Hopkinsville/Christian County Library.
I move that all the papers of the Hopkinsville Athenaeum be collected and stored in the same location for their preservation and for the convenience of its’ members.
Adams, John, Librarian, Salem Massachusetts, Email correspondence email@example.com/ August, 2002.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.
“The Athenaeum Library.” Private paper: Author Unknown, The Athenaeum Liverpool, Church Street, Liverpool, England, UK L13DD
Bensgton, Jonathan , library Director, Providence, Rhode Island Athenaeum, Email correspondence, firstname.lastname@example.org/ August, 2002 (8)
“ATHENAEUM-LIVERPOOL OPENED JANUARY 1799: REMOVED TO NEW PREMISES NOVEMBER 1928,” Private Paper: Author Unknown, The Athenaeum Liverpool, Church Street, Liverpool, England, UK L13DD.
Freer, John H., “A DICKENS OF A CAROL” A paper prepared for The Hopkinsville Athenaeum, Hopkinsville, KY December 3, 1998.(1)
“THE GREEK GODDESS ATHENE” Private paper, Author Unknown, London, England, UK Athenaeum.(3, 7)
Helms, Cheryl, Library Director, Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport Rhode Island, Email correspondence. email@example.com/ August, 2002.
Hollingshead, J. E. , B.A., M.Phil., Ph.D “1888, BOSTON ATHENAEUM AND LIVERPOOL ATHENAEUM: THE HISTORIC SOCIETY AND OVERSEAS MEMBERS”
From the Liverpool Athenaeum Library, private collection. (4,6)
Lenardon, Robert J., “Athena”, The World Book Encyclopedia, Book A, volume 1, World Book Inc., Chicago, London, Sydney, Toronto, 1985.
Lieber, Frances LL.D., “REMININSCENES, ADDRESSES, AND ESSAYS,”
Private Paper: J.B. Lippincott and Company, Philadelphia, 1881. (2, 5)
MacMullen, Ramsay, “Hadrian” The World Book Encyclopedia, Book H, volume 9, World Book Inc., Chicago, London, Sydney, Toronto, 1985.
Moss, Roger W. , Philadelphia Athenaeum, Email correspondence,
rwmoss@ PhilaAthenaeum.org/ August, 2002
Moss, Roger W., The Philadelphia Victorian, The Building of the Athenaeum in Philadelphia, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 1998. (10)
Weller, C. Bradford, “Athenaeum”, The World Book Encyclopedia, Book A, volume 1, World Book Inc., Chicago, London, Sydney, Toronto, 1985.
Wiggins, Cynthia, “Salem Athenaeum, Salem, Massachusetts, Incorporated 1810 to The Social Library of 1760 and The Philosophical Library of 1781” Booklet largely based on the work of Cynthia Wiggins. Salem Athenaeum, Salem, Massachusetts, 1991. (9)
Turner, William T. and King, Hal, “100 YEARS OF THE ATHENAEUM SOCIETY, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, April 1902-April 2002, History, Constitution and Bylaws, Membership,” Private Paper Researched and compiled by 2002. (11)
Self, E.B. ,“IS THE ATHENAEUM SOCIETY LIVING UP TO IT’S NAME?” Private Paper presented to The Hopkinsville (KY) Athenaeum, March 3, 1977. (12, 13)
von Kann, Lisa, Library Director, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johns bury, Vermont. Email correspondence firstname.lastname@example.org/ , August, 2002.
Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition
The World Publishing Corporation, Cleveland and New York, 1965.